Signs You Should Hire a Child Custody Attorney
Updated: Jul 27
You should hire a child custody attorney
if your case is contested, or
if the other side is taking advantage of you.
You should not hire an attorney
if you can settle the case without a lawyer,
if you can file a motion to enforce visitation without a lawyer, or
just to harass your ex.
This post will explain, in further detail, when you should and should not hire a child custody attorney.
You should hire a child custody attorney if:
1. Your case is contested in court, and you are going to trial. As I explain more fully in a prior post, you should not represent yourself in court. The American court system is so complicated that few non-lawyers are able to understand the procedures involved. If you try to represent yourself in court, you likely won’t know what your legal options are.
A more important reason that you should not represent yourself in a contested case, is, a custody case is so emotional, that you will not be in a condition to present a good case. You will not be able to think clearly to realize what is the best evidence. You may even have an emotional breakdown during the trial. If you get too angry in the courtroom, the judge may think that you are not a fit parent.
2. You believe that the other side is attempting to take unfair advantage of you. If you suspect that the other side (or their attorney) is acting deceitfully, or is trying to deprive you of your legal rights, you should hire an attorney, to make sure that everything is done “on the up and up.” If the other side is trying to get you to sign a paper that you do not understand, or if the other side is saying things that appear to be lies, hire an attorney. If your attorney is competent, he will be able to see if there is behavior that is unethical, or if there are laws that can protect you, that you do not know about.
You do not need to hire a child custody attorney if:
1. You believe that you can settle the matter with the other side, without an attorney. Most child custody cases settle out of court. If you can settle your case without an attorney, why throw away thousands of dollars? Also, if you can settle your case out of court, but instead insist on hiring an attorney and slugging it out in court, the judge may think that you are being overly aggressive. Judges generally, do not favor parties who are overly aggressive in custody cases. If the judge thinks you are trying to play hardball, the judge may deny you custody.
I've posted free Oklahoma divorce forms on this site here. These divorce forms can help you file a simple, uncontested divorce case without a lawyer.
2. The other side is denying you visitation, and you want to file a motion to enforce visitation. The Oklahoma Legislature has created an innovative new program where you can file a motion to enforce visitation, in court, without a lawyer. The program is designed to enable parents, who have been denied visitation, to redress grievances without spending money on a lawyer.
Here’s how it works: You can go to your local court clerk, and ask for the form for a motion to enforce visitation. (Or, you can download a copy of the form here, or here.) Fill out the form and file it in court. After you file the form, the judge must then set a hearing date that is less than 21 days after you filed the form.
At the hearing, if the judge finds that the other parent has denied you visitation, the judge may then order visitation. The judge may also order you additional visitation time to compensate you for the lost visitation time. The judge may also order the other parent to post a bond, that is conditioned on the other parent’s complying with the visitation order. The judge also may order “any other remedy the court considers appropriate.”
A motion to enforce visitation is one type of trial where I do not believe you need a lawyer. Because of the mechanism that the state has created, a motion to enforce visitation is an exception to my advice above that you should hire a lawyer in a contested custody case.
3. The only reason you are hiring an attorney is to harass your ex. Your attorney’s purpose should be to protect your legal rights, not to harass people or take revenge. You are an adult; don’t act like you are still in junior high.